The tradition of glassblowing has produced beautiful art and tableware for two thousand years. The tools and equipment haven’t changed radically in that timespan, and so potential safety hazards can be easily mitigated by following a few simple (but necessary) safety rules in the shop.
It goes without saying that you’ll need plenty of equipment like safety glasses and durable gloves to help protect your body from burns. But that safety equipment must also be within reach the moment you need it.
Your shop needs to be designed so that things like molds, mitts, and tools are at your fingertips and consistently in the same place. This way, you aren’t searching for anything while you have a gather about to splatter on the floor.
There are industrial practices that can be very helpful to use in your shop, such as an organizational principle called “5S”. This creates a dedicated spot for everything necessary to your process, which not only keeps you safe, but can save you money as well. Having your safety equipment and everything from tools to UST Glass organized and easily accessible helps you work and even manage inventory more efficiently.
Many artists and teachers advocate for having multiple sets of safety equipment, especially for those that transfer heat and may take time to cool down. Since safety equipment in this line of work tends to wear down and degrade quickly, you also need to plan for continuous replacement of some of the most-used items like gloves and molds.
Some glassblowers are lone wolves, but others work in teams of two or even three people. In this kind of environment, it’s crucial that everyone has eyes in the back of their heads – keep aware of the location and movement of everyone else in the vicinity.
Before you swing a gather out of the glory hole, you must be certain nobody is standing in your way; emulating the Three Stooges in your shop is a good way to send someone to the hospital. If you’re working with a team, make sure communication is constant and nobody is daydreaming or tuned out while checking social media on their phones.
Laypeople are often fascinated by the art of glassblowing, and it’s not uncommon for people to want to observe you while you work. But enforcing a safety area for onlookers can be the difference between a successful visit or a lawsuit for personal injury.
Don’t be afraid to lay down the law in these cases, because everyone’s safety and welfare is on the line. One aspect of 5S mentioned above is taping off the floor with designated safety areas and working areas to ensure onlookers are not at risk simply by standing in the wrong place.
People are creatures of habit, and as you settle into a comfortable routine in your shop, you might forget some of your more stringent training and take shortcuts that could become safety liabilities down the road. In any profession, people tend to make mistakes when they become bored or overly comfortable and careless.
To prevent things from getting stale, invite guest artists to your shop, keep taking classes on methods and techniques, and hone your safety skills while unleashing your creativity. Though you might be involved in glassblowing as an artist, there are master glassblower programs you can pursue within the scientific field that can improve your overall skills as an artist as well.
Learning additional skills or techniques can help you expand your product line, network, reach new customers, and keep your focus sharper.